Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: 7th September 2018
Are your spidey senses tingling? Well they definitely should be because he’s only a few months away from coming to life on your PlayStation 4.
Given carte blanche to explore Manhattan as the superhero I began the demo simply swinging building to building with almost no thought of how to do it or worry of missing a button press to fall to my death.
A cross between Assassin’s Creed and Just Cause 3’s grapple hook mechanic you push in the direction you want to swing and press a button to web onto the nearest building and continue in the direction you want. There’s also a circular pointer that locks onto different anchoring points of buildings as you swing past, these you can swing to and stop, giving you a precise control mechanism on top of its eloquently fluid travel system.
Whilst moving about the city you can participate in what feels like an almost endless supply of mini-missions and tasks, I stepped in to stop a robbery in process for example before running off into the sunset to the next story mission. These side quests and city secrets are unlocked by perching atop radio towers strewn throughout the map. For anyone who’s played an Assassin’s Creed game this will feel very similar the only difference being there’s no hay bail you need to jump into, simply web off in any direction you like.
The game strikes another similarity in its combat system, consistently compared with Rock Steady Games’ Batman series. It should be too because they’re very similar in a lot of ways but at the same time different enough to suit the Spider-Man style. Spider-Man is portrayed as a much smaller and nimble person than Batman for example and this is reflected in his combat style in the game, diving between enemy’s legs or doing flips off their shoulders to swing around into their backs. Spider-Man also makes use of the environment a lot more and uses webs to pull in barrels and bricks to hit enemies. You can also use webs to temporarily disable and tie enemies up, which is especially handy when dealing with large numbers at once. I’d quite often shoot webs at one with a gun and then deal with everyone else before concentrating on them.
The other main difference in the combat system is that whilst you do see a flashing graphic that an enemy is about to attack you see it over Spider-Man’s head and not the enemies. This is your spidey sense going off but it doesn’t scream where or which enemy is due to attack making things a little more complicated and to be honest, fun!
The demo rounded out with a boss fight inside a bank. In a far more scripted encounter the battle was large in scale and makes good use of the environment to make it more interesting however it very much felt like a paint-by-numbers sort of encounter, which was a little disappointing given the new systems in play for open-world traversal & combat.
I came away from the demo happy with Spider-Man but not as excited as some. It’s a great build on open-world titles like Assasin’s Creed and Insomniac’s previous attempt Sunset Overdrive but not enough so for me to get super excited by it.